Workers at the trade center will go through the process of installing the Dalton State College men’s basketball floor at least 16 more times.
Tuesday was the first, though.
In another first for the Roadrunners’ relaunched athletics program, workers spent most of the day installing a new floor bought specifically for the Dalton State men’s basketball team, which begins its season Oct. 30 in Mobile, Ala., versus Spring Hill College.
All 16 of the Roadrunners’ scheduled home games will be played at the trade center, with the first on Nov. 7 against Hiwassee College.
“While it’s a beginning, it’s also a culmination of a lot of hard work from many groups,” Dalton State athletic director Derek Waugh said. “We couldn’t have done this without the trade center, the city of Dalton and Whitfield County.”
Dalton Junior College competed in men’s basketball from 1968-1978, and the 2013-2014 season will mark the return of the sport at the collegiate level to Dalton. Women’s volleyball plus men’s and women’s cross country and men’s golf have already started competition this fall.
Men’s basketball coach Tony Ingle summed up the proximity of the season’s launch.
“Our first game is Oct. 30,” Ingle said. “We leave the day before. We only have a month left until then. It’s right around the corner.”
Usually, the basketball floor only stays installed for one or two days and is taken apart the day following a home game, said Doug Phipps, general manager of the trade center.
Phipps added this installation won’t be tampered with for about one week to allow the team to practice and season-ticket holders to view the court during today’s “Pick Your Seat” event.
Tuesday’s installation was a trial run, just like the Dalton State team is practicing to prepare for the season. This is a different — and heavier — type of floor than the one the trade center used to have for high school tournaments and Harlem Globetrotters games.
The floor is comprised of tiles about 7 feet long and 3 feet wide connected together. There are 15 rows of tiles.
The setup has the floor closer to each set of bleachers than in previous basketball events. Waugh explained why.
“It’s going to be a tight bowl,” he said. “I want it loud and I want everyone on top of the action.”
As banging hammers flooded the air on Tuesday, the reality that the Roadrunners are ever closer to finally playing started sinking in — and not just for Dalton State officials.
Phipps recalled conversations with former Dalton Junior College men’s basketball coach Melvyn Ottinger, who led the Roadrunners to 20 or more wins in seven seasons, a top-20 poll finish four times and two national championship tournament appearances.
“Coach Ottinger was my tournament director for every high school basketball event I ever did here,” Phipps said. “Through the time, we talked about the Roadrunners history and the conversation always led to Dalton State returning to athletics and playing on this court.
“It’s exciting for me after hearing that year after year to be part of this startup.”